The Better You’ve Been Longing For

nathan-dumlao-1120872-unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Welcome to part 3 of this lovely series on why happiness eludes you, experiences disappoint you, and dreams deceive you.

In case you’re just joining in, I’ll give you the bottom line — it boils down to the idea of better. You can read parts 1 and 2 to catch up or fall asleep, your choice.

For those picking up after part deux, you were left with but a centimeter of your posterior hanging on the edge of your seat, wondering what in the world happens in Hebrews 11 to these men and women who lived by faith and died in faith, having never witnessed or grasped that for which they so deeply longed.

There are two helpful summaries about these men and women in relation to better.

Summary 1 is Hebrews 11.13-16.

These all died in faith, although they had not received the things that were promised. But they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth14 Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland15 If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. 16 But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 

Summary 2 comes at the end of the chapter in verses 39 and 40.

All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

So these faithful men and women who’ve gone before us by thousands of years, listened and obeyed God–not perfectly–but to the point that it was clear their better was not a better to be grasped in this world.

This feels like that moment where the preacher has no application and leans hard on  aren’t you glad heaven is waiting? Now, let’s stand and sing eight stanzas of I’ll Fly Away into Beulah Land somewhere over Jordan!

So yes, no wool to pull over your eyes, the better is forever. It’s eternity. It’s with God in His presence for eternity.

But I don’t think that is the main point for the writer of Hebrews. There is a pursuit of better here and now. The letter doesn’t continue on with a charge to suck it up until you die. 

Chapter 12 carries on with physically vigorous exercise words like lay aside every hindrance/weight and run the race with endurance. There’s no passive laisse faire spiritual gobbly goop there.

Run. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. He’s the one who got you started, and he’s the one who will get you across the finish line.

And oh that moment. That moment when your race is done. That moment when I fall into the arms of my Savior. That moment.

Having never laid hands or eyes on that which we longed and lived for, we will know in an instant that nothing was done in vain. We will be reassured one billion times over that there was nothing or no one on earth worth trading for a city that only God can build and an inheritance that only God can afford.

  • That moment will be better than whatever awkward bliss you can achieve with your girlfriend or boyfriend in your car or your apartment.
  • It will be better than whatever subdivision you dream of living in but can’t seem to afford.
  • It will be better than that car or lifted truck or boat or house or outfit or purse or batting average or GPA that you think will satisfy your itch for better or make your dad proud.

What’s it all mean?

May I be blunt? Of course I can; I’m writing.

There is no better this world affords that will be better enough.

It feels wrong to say it, type it, read it, believe it. But it’s true.

The only better that will satisfy is the better that lasts forever.

An obsession with that better will yield a life of beauty and purpose here and now. There is something about looking out and walking the path of long obedience that, invisibly and invariably, satisfies in the end.

For lack of a better word, it’s better.

I  will conclude this series next time with my own grasping for better story.

Until then.

 

Set it on fire

night-fire-easter-celebration

Happy Thanksgiving.

Merry Christmas.

Happy New Year

These are such assumptive holidays and celebrations. After all, what if 2017 mainly represents failed hopes?

What if I look back over the year and the things that burst to the top of my mind with the force of an instant pot gone loco are failures, losses, pain, regrets, and the like? Pardon me if there doesn’t seem to be a lot of Feliz in my Navidad this year.

Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year! Happy New Year? Sure, the hap-hap-happiest New Year ever! I look forward to more of what happened last year. Which, if I’m being honest, amounts to a whole lot of regret.

Why regret? Have I mentioned I didn’t keep my resolutions in 2017? I never lost the 15 pounds (but I did put on 5). I didn’t write on my blog each week like I said. My marriage isn’t any stronger because of my Notebook-esque heart-pursuing, romance inducing practices. I stopped reading ‘thru the Bible in a year’ at Leviticus because Leviticus (I actually made it all the way through this year, but I know the plight of any whose tears left the pages upon pages of temple procedures bonded together forever).

2017 year-in-review: didn’t do it, never started, couldn’t stop, didn’t finish, wish I had, wish I hadn’t…

These thoughts are fresh on my mind after preparing for our church’s Christmas Eve service this year. Several people in my congregation faced loss or are staring it in the face in 2018. Some of our families had one less seat filled at Thanksgiving dinner. There were fewer presents under the Christmas tree and an indescribable fullness missing from the conversation. When one voice is lost, we all lose a piece of our own as well.

No matter what kind of year you may have had in 2017, here comes 2018 like a bat out of Helsinki. She’s inviting you in. Will you go reluctantly, expectantly, brazenly, cautiously?

The Apostle Paul was a guy who’d had highs and lows like none other. If you’re skeptical, read some of 2 Corinthians 11. But in spite of peaks and valleys and the in-between, he had this to say:

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14 I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you … (CSB)

There’s a level of maturity required to leave the past in the past and press on to the future. Erwin McManus devotes a couple of chapters in his new book to the idea of setting your past on fire. You make an altar of those things, good or bad, and light it up as you walk in slow motion toward the future.

It doesn’t mean you don’t remember people or forsake experiences. But there comes a time for us all to let go of whatever is hindering us. That could be a failed weight loss goal. But it might also be the loss of a loved one. A cancer diagnosis (saw too many of those in my circles in 2017). A dream job that has become a nightmare.

I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think of what (or who) you’d like to leave behind in 2017. For me, there are a few “didn’t do its” I’d like to just fuhgeddaboutit.

  • I didn’t write a blog with consistency. And I have excuses. Good ones. But they’re excuses. Goal fail.
  • I didn’t get 9-pack abs. My excuse? I eat too much. Oh food. I need you. I want you.  Goal fail.
  • I didn’t become more of the husband I want to be. Excuse, you ask? Pride…I chose to honor me instead of she. Goal fail.

There are more goal fail bullet points seared into my brain, but I’m trying to leave them behind for crying out loud.

How about you?

What must you leave behind in order to forge ahead into a brighter tomorrow? It’s that thought, that voice, that experience, that failure that’s weighing you down like Fat Albert on a bobsled team.

You can’t leave your cancer behind…it’s going with you. But perhaps there’s a new level of faith or an attitude you’d like to invite in. No amount of optimism will bring your loved one back to life…but what if you take that loss and channel it into choosing a fuller life this year in some capacity?

Within the realm of what you can control, what decisions will you make so that you aren’t sitting in the same seat on the regret bus come December 30, 2018?

What behaviors have to change? What habits have to be broken? How much pain and discomfort are you willing to endure in order to see growth or healing?

I wish I could invite you to cyber slap me if you find out I’m not following through on what I’m setting out to do and be in 2018. But I do plan on having better accountability and invite you to do the same wherever you are.

Share your goals and aspirations with people who are for you and love you and, even in the South, will tell you the stank nasty truth when necessary.

So, here’s you to 2017! The altar is set. The match is lit. Toss on 3.

1….

2….